A quick note before we dig into our ten favorite television shows of the year. You’ll most likely notice the absence of How I Met Your Mother. This has nothing to do with its quality (or lack there of), as our omission of The Office does. We just don’t watch it. That being said, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Mother, since every person we know who watches the show unabashedly loves it. Someday we’ll likely join the club, plowing through episode after episode on an extended DVD viewing marathon. However, that day has yet to come.
Onto the top-ten, presented in reverse order as to build suspense.
#10: The Katie Couric/Sarah Palin Interviews
Thirty years from now, we fully expect one of Peter Morgan’s daughters to write a play, and subsequent screenplay, about the most indelible moment from the 2008 election. Couric/Palin was reality television at its absolute finest: The ultimate train wreck.
#9: Super Bowl XLII: New York 17, New England 14
Whether or not you’re a sports fan, you had to appreciate the New York Giants’ stunning upset over the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The game transcended sports and moved into the theatrical. But even the most desperate screenwriter couldn’t think of a scenario like the Giants game-winning drive. "The fourth string wide receiver will catch a ball… on his helmet!"
After a rocky start, Fringe has become one of our favorite shows because, like J.J. Abrams’ other science fiction program (a little something called Lost), it always leaves us wanting the elusive more: more mystery, more ad hoc science, more Joshua Jackson. It also doesn’t hurt that Fringe routinely scares the crap out of us.
We’ve hated Entourage for such a long time that we almost forgot why we liked it in the first place. Against all odds, the fifth season reminded us. Buoyed by an excellent lead performance from Kevin Connolly (seriously) and a reasonably believable storyline (well, reasonably believable for Entourage), it was pure thoughtless summer fun delivered in the serious-minded fall.
Forget Jim and Pam already; the best geek-love relationship on television is happening between Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker. In addition to being painfully romantic and charmingly funny (more "ha-ha" than "lol"), Chuck is treasure trove of 80s nostalgia. Where else on television can you find witty references to Back to the Future, Spies Like Us, The Karate Kid and Die Hard?
#5: 30 Rock
There are seams showing–the writing has been particularly haphazard during season three–but nothing makes us laugh like 30 Rock. And there aren’t enough positive adjectives to throw in Alec Baldwin’s direction. The man is a god amongst mortals.
#4: Desperate Housewives
To answer your question: yes, Desperate Housewives is still on the air. Amazingly, what used to be one of the most over-rated shows on television has now become the most under-rated. The five-year time jump that creator Marc Cherry installed for this season has worked like gangbusters, invigorating stale characters and relationships. However we love Desperate Housewives because of the outstanding cast. Of particular note are Marcia Cross and Kyle MacLachlan, playing the most Waspy WASP couple this side of Westchester. How Ms. Cross hasn’t won a basket fully of Emmy Awards for her performance is a mystery of the universe we’ll never understand.
#3: Mad Men
Mad Men will appear on top-ten lists from here to Hawaii, so we won’t bore you with regurgitations about Matthew Weiner’s effortless writing, about Jon Hamm’s subtle brilliance or about January Jones’ beautiful frailty. What we can say however is that we never expected another show to so quickly usurp The Sopranos in our minds as the pinnacle of cable television greatness.
What started with a bearded Matthew Fox torturously screaming, "we have to go back" ended with the whole goddamn Island disappearing in a flash of oyster colored light; and while there were some missteps–Michael, we’re looking at you–we loved nearly every second. The most thrilling part of season four? The realization that Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof actually know where they’re going with all this. Now if they’ll only tell us what the four-toed statue means… give us that Rosseau flashback episode… explain what the smoke monster is…
#1: Gossip Girl
Deliciously trashy, incredibly inappropriate (we still feel dirty for having seen the whole "15-year-old Jenny dances in her bra" episode), wildly funny and shockingly smart, Gossip Girl is the most fun we have watching television in a given week. When it first premiered last fall, we took issue with the fact that we didn’t care about any of the characters. Now our hearts break for… Blair and Chuck? It takes a special kind of show to illicit feelings for what are, ostensibly, two awful human beings. And yet Gossip Girl makes us want to friend them on Facebook. You can call Gossip Girl a derivative teen soap, Dynasty, Jr., or even a sign of the coming apocalypse. We’ll just call it the best show of the year.